Friday, November 11, 2011

NaNo WriMo Day 11: Holding

Chapter 11: Holding

Enlil sprinted through the open field as arrows skipped along the ground behind him.  He was covered in a thin layer of dust, dulling the freshly oiled sheen on his leather armor. He reached the small stone wall and cleared it in a single jump.  The adrenaline surged through his body and his voice came alive as he spoke to the small group gathered in the grove.  “The bloody cunts.  They brought the entire clan.”  He leaned against a nearby fruit tree and worked on catching his breath.  

It had only taken two days of searching the rugged hills to find what they had thought to be the remnants of the long hidden hill tribe known as the Black Crows.  It was suspected they had been coming out of the hilltops and raiding among the foothills and plains.  Sure enough, here they were invading the simple farmlands of a rightful citizen of Alb.  However, remnants wasn’t a proper description.  Enlil had spotted an entire tribe traveling together; women, children, and warriors.  Many warriors.

Enlil’s party had worked its way back down from a pair of twin hill tops that the  locals had grown fond of calling the “humps”.  The farmstead had taken hold near the creek that split the hills.  The Alb farmer and his woman had been hospitable the first night.  The second he seemed irritated when he learned of the presence of the Black Crows.  

Had it been Enlil’s decision, he would had let the farmer be and set a hard ride for the camp, but it was not Enlil’s decision to make.  His feathered sergeant, Caedmon, had ordered the men to hold fast deep in the grove out of site.  Enlil suspected he meant to gather more on the Crows as they passed and favored a slower journey back to the main force instead of a frenzied escape with or without the farmer in tow.  

Unfortunately, it hadn’t taken long for the Black Crows to prove the plan folly.  On the morning of the third day, a shout had come from the farmhouse.  Caedmon had sent Enlil and another unfeathered soldier, Turin, to investigate.  The two found the farmer split open from ear to ear on the back store room’s floor.  Knocked over foodstuffs trailed out of the room mixed among bloody foot prints.  

Turin was the first to follow the trail and catch site of the thieves cresting the far hedge row, black feathers streaming from their hair.  Turin agreed to head back into the grove while Enlil surveyed the stone house for the farmer’s lady friend.  The scream had definitely been that of the farmer.  Either the woman was dead as well, hidden elsewhere in the house, or she was deaf.  

His and Turin’s entrance into the house meant that they had cleared the main dwelling.  All that remained was the stable outside the low stone wall of the orchard.  Enlil closed the distance between the two buildings quick and silent enough.  A peak through the closest door revealed nothing.  A pig waddled in the corner while the plow horses whinnied at his sudden presence.  Hens pecked the ground as they passed in and out underneath the rough wood doors.

Enlil did not care much for the mystery of the missing woman.  She may have been carried off in the night or played an excellent game of hide and seek.  Yet, he knew Caedmon would question him, so he figured a look into the pasture down was warranted.  It was through the hedge row, so he would most likely get a glimpse of the retreating thieves.

He approached the hedge row with caution as he trotted down the path at a slight jog.  The first arrow whizzed by before he could react.  The second nearly caught him in the groin.  By the third arrow Enlil had begun his retreat.  The thieves hadn’t meant to escape at all.  They were going back to advise of clearing the house.  A line of Black Crow warriors popped up like rodents from a city sewer as Enlil looked over his shoulder.

The distinctive whooping cry known to the eastlanders as an order for battle among the hill tribes chased Enlil as he ran.  More arrows loosed in his direction as he made the wall.

At first the thrill of the moment drove a smile across Enlil’s face, but as Caedmon appeared from the thicket of trees Enlil knew something was wrong.  The Crows had already sent scouts into the grove and the blood streaked across the sleeves of Caedmon’s white sergeants doublet spoke silent confirmation of the danger they faced.  

The hefty nature of the fruit trees provided a natural barrier preventing the threat of arrow fire throughout the grove.  Caedmon’s band worked it’s way along the rows back to their horses.  Having finished the scout in silence had given them enough of a head start to mount up and choose a route for escape.

As soon as the mounted men broke through the long gap in the stone wall the air buzzed to life.  Arrow fire cascaded from all directions as the Crows revealed themselves.  Horses screamed and threw riders.  Enlil found himself as the lone rider as he watched as Caedmon’s horse crumpled.   He spurred his mount and made for creek knowing the creekside hills were his lone chance.

Enlil had only enough time to look back once.  The Crow warriors descended upon the downed men in a frenzy.  The fight was over before it started with only Caedmon able to bear his sword long enough to trade blows one for one.  Enlil turned back forward concentrating on his flight.  He needed to get back to the Alban camp.  

Cold water splashed up from the creek and the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves thundered upon the stone of the creek bed.  Enlil was shocked to realize the horse was racing on without him.  Pain caught up with the sensation of water grabbing at his armor.  He struggled to get to his knees as dark spots began to obscure his vision.  The blackness consumed him and he toppled, limp-bodied into the creek.

Enlil awoke with a grogginess reserved for the worst of nights of drinking.  He shot up hoping to keep his head above water.  However, Enlil realized he was back in the dark room somewhere hidden within Castle Black.  Memories of his previous captivity amongst the Black Crows flooded his mind.  He did not much like being a prisoner, but at least it was not a new experience.


Orten slumped in the small fishing skiff, it’s small sail fighting the edge winds of the storm.  The pain ate into Orten from all directions.  A sleep came over him as smoke trailed the boat. The skiff cut a course northward and entered the storm.  The storm responded with a whipping of wind and the attack of rain.  The waves grew and crashed into the skiff, yet it held course powered by the vary winds that worked to destroy it.

Word count: 11070

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